MLS Matchweek 7 proved severely dichotomous to the league’s image. Fans were treated to the best that MLS offers with individual brilliance, age-defying heroes, local rivalries and close games. However, it was an alleged incident that occurred between San Jose and New York that left an extremely sour taste in fans' mouths.
5 takeaways from MLS Matchweek 7
#1. Racism has no place in Major League Soccer
We begin with a topic that simply should not be debated. Racism and racist language do not have a home in Major League Soccer. There should be zero tolerance when it comes to players racially abusing other players and at this moment, the league has the chance to take a real stand.
The incident in question took place in the 54th minute of the match between San Jose and New York Red Bulls. After an admittedly rash challenge earned Earthquakes midfielder Judson a yellow card, cameras caught an altercation between Red Bulls designated player Dante Vanzeir and San Jose’s Jeremy Ebobisse.
A statement from Major League Soccer: pic.twitter.com/KYGgKzlaU4— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) April 9, 2023
It's been alleged that the 24-year-old RBNY forward used a racial slur on the pitch prompting officials to investigate during the match for 17 agonizing minutes. The match referees could not find any evidence to support a decision either way meaning the investigation will be handled by the league from here on out.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the full clip, it’s gut-wrenching. If you have the time and facilities, check out the full replay of the match, available on MLS Season Pass, and skip to the 53rd minute. Yes, the claims are alleged, but it’s a really tough watch to see Ebobisse, usually known for his level-headedness, completely lose his cool.
Here are the opening comments from Jeremy Ebobisse in tonight's press conference as shared on The Aftershock Postgame Show.Thank you to @kingjebo and Luchi Gonzalez for their candidness and for answering our questions. #Quakes74 #RBNY
— Quakes Epicenter (@QuakesEpicenter) April 9, 2023
If the accusations are true and the Red Bulls player is found to have to used this language on the pitch, MLS will need to make an example out of him. Show the world exactly what happens when racial slurs are used.
Vanzeir stayed on the field until the 87th minute. Play had resumed in the 72nd minute. Gonzalez was shown by the broadcast feed in conversation with Struber numerous times during the stoppage.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) April 9, 2023
New York also needs to make a statement, besides the one it already put out on social media. In an interview after the match, San Jose’s coach Luchi Gonzalez said, “I was adamant to suggest that the player should not be on the field anymore," asking for the player to be substituted. However, after a short conversation between New York manager Gerhard Struber and Vanzeir, it was decided that no replacements would be made at that opportunity.
On a night when soccer should have ruled the headlines, it's beyond infuriating that one person’s alleged stupidity is stealing the headlines from superstars like Dénis Bouanga.
#2. Dénis Bouanga’s incredible run of form continues
LAFC has struck gold in the form of Dénis Bouanga. The 28-year-old has been on a scoring tear of outrageous proportions this season, leaving opposition goalkeepers with nothing to do but pick the ball out from the backs of their nets.
Now 11 goals, as Denis Bouanga has completed his hat trick and LAFC are up 3-0 over Austin. Just tweeting through it over here. Don't mind me. https://t.co/K3wjOPVjyS— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) April 9, 2023
The Gabonese forward has notched his second career hat trick in the span of a month with his first treble coming against L.D. Alajuelense in the CONCACAF Champions League. His 11 goal contributions in all competitions ensure that defenders will be facing Bouanga not just on the pitch, but in their nightmares.
Steve Cherundolo on Denis Bouanga, "He's a threat on the dribble. He's a threat off of crosses. If we could teach him how to set-up goals more often and a little better, then he's hands down the best player in the league. There is still room to improve and that's the scary thing" pic.twitter.com/GGcn3jDcYY— Justin Ruderman (@JustinRuderman_) April 9, 2023
He's genuinely unplayable, for now at least.
#3. Diego Rubio’s biblical return
On Easter Eve, when Christians the world over are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Diego Rubio provided Colorado faithful with a miracle of his own, saving them from what felt like an eternity of misery and suffering with a goal, marking the completion of his resurrection.
He was as good as dead less than a month ago. A devastating knee injury sidelined the Chilean forward for the beginning of the 2023 MLS season and forced youngsters like Darren Yapi into the Rapids’ starting 11. Colorado side struggled massively without him, but since his return against Minnesota, the Rapids have tied LAFC and now won their first game of the season on the road at Kansas City.
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) April 9, 2023
Rubio’s decisive goal with just over 20 minutes left felt like a weight had been lifted from Rapids supporters’ chests as he speared his shot past Tim Melia for Colorado’s third goal of the season. Against his former club no less.
Miraculous. Biblical, even. Whatever adjective you use to describe this moment, it’s a genuine contender for the feel-good soccer story of the year.
#4. Kei Kamara is eternal
How does this keep happening?
At 38 years old, he really should be past his best. He should be reduced to a late-game substitution or a veteran leader who pushes his teammates in training but rarely actually sees the field. Those roles work, we've seen them for years, but that’s not Kei Kamara.
Kei Kamara has played for so many MLS teams that when he scores there’s a 30+ % chance that the goal came against a former team of his— ᗪᗩᑎIEᒪ ᖴIᑎTOᑎ (@daniel_finton) April 9, 2023
Now at his 11th MLS club, Kamara just cannot stop scoring goals. Facing off against Minnesota United, who had conceded just three times all season before Matchweek 7, few gave Chicago a chance. But then, right on cue, up stepped Kamara.
His first required tremendous technical ability to create a shot from almost nothing, let alone score. His second, however, was vintage Kei as he contorted himself to redirect a cross past Dayne St. Clair in Minnesota’s net.
It’s the first time all season Adrian Heath’s side saw more than one goal find its way into their net. All thanks to Kei Kamara. This one’s definitely gonna live on his highlight tape.
#5. Giorgos Giakoumakis and Atlanta United are getting the job done, even on the road
Atlanta’s Greek freak is making a name for himself as the club’s new attacking duo forms before our very eyes. It’s dangerous, it's deadly, it's beautiful.
Giorgos Goals pic.twitter.com/Y7CWMv5BL5— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 9, 2023
Despite going a man down after Franco Ibarra’s late tackle earned him an early bath, Atlanta rallied and found an opening goal thanks to Giorgos Giakoumakis. The Greek international steered home a Thiago Almada cross for his third goal of the season and gave Almada his ninth goal contribution in six games.
Giakoumakis has been a great pickup for Atlanta. A different sort of striker than Josef, but fits well as a target man with Almada being the best playmaker in MLS behind him.Brutal red card happy with a point away at NYCFC.
— Wes (@bloghawk) April 9, 2023
Leaving a match against NYCFC with only a point may at first glance seem like a missed opportunity. New York City hasn’t really set the world alight in 2023 but upon further inspection, the result proves Atlanta is the real deal.
Yankee Stadium had hosted two previous fixtures this season, accounting for both of the club’s only league wins. The field has become notorious for being extremely difficult to play at, an issue made even worse as Nick Cushing has his side play a style that exploits these issues to great effect. All this is to say that Giakoumakis cannot stop scoring. He can do it on a cold night in the Bronx just as well as he can in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.